It’s full steam ahead for the jumps season this weekend as Haydock treats us to the first Grade One of the new campaign in the shape of the Betfair Chase.
Gold Cup contenders are put to the test at the Merseyside track, while down at Ascot there’s an intriguing battle between Altior and Cyrname to look forward to over 2m5f.
Whatever happens, we’re in for a brilliant Saturday of racing in the UK, so here are a few predictions to how I think some of the big races could go.
Calva D’Auge (12:05 Haydock – Saturday)
Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Jockey: Harry Cobden
The opening race on the card is named the ‘Read Paul Nicholls Exclusively At Betfair Newton Novices’ Hurdle’ and the champion trainer has a real chance of landing it with Calva D’Auge.
Nicholls won this race twelve months ago with Grand Sancy and can follow suit again with a horse who was an assertive winner on heavy ground at Plumpton last time.
The four-year-old has plenty of experience from his time in France, where, as well as running over hurdles, also competed in a Group Three on the flat which was won by the Charlie Appleby-trained Glorious Journey who recently won the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury.
That suggests that Calva D’Auge should not only appreciate the soft conditions at Haydock, but also a flatter track. A combo that could prove he has a touch of class.
Project Bluebook (1:50 Haydock – Saturday)
Trainer: John Quinn
Jockey: Barry Geraghty
Jonjo O’Neill Jr was in the lead on Project Bluebook last time at Wetherby when he steered down the wrong course and missed two out, but with Barry Geraghty in the saddle this weekend, the six-year-old can bounce back to winning form.
Trainer John Quinn is in excellent form at the minute with a 21% strike rate and Project Bluebook just looks a winner in waiting after seeing his handicap mark remain unaltered after that mishap last time.
He is also Geraghty’s only ride of the day as well, and given that he has only ridden 58 times at Haydock in his career (winning 11 times) it might be a jockey booking worth following.
Altior (2:05 Ascot – Saturday)
Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Jockey: Nico De Boinville
Altior often does his best work in the closing stages and considering he’s done that plenty of times up the Cheltenham Hill, he should be able to handle the step up in trip on the flatter track of Ascot.
Yes, he has to contend with the highest-rated chaser in Cyrname, who was incredibly good over course and distance last time, but this is Altior that we are talking about and he’s a horse that just keeps on giving.
I think his class will just shine through and if his speed can be matched with stamina then we could be looking at something even more special than we already think come Saturday afternoon.
Lostintranslation (3:00 Haydock – Saturday)
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Jockey: Robbie Power
I was at Carlisle when Lostintranslation put in a brilliant round of jumping to comfortably win the Colin Parker Memorial Chase over 2m4f.
This will, of course, be a much tougher test against opponents who have been operating at the highest level. Bristol De Mai is a multiple winner of this race, while Frodon won the Ryanair at the Festival in March.
However, Lostintranslation has looked a different beast since being upped to 3m1f on soft ground at Aintree in April. That saw him score in good style to beat RSA Chase winner Topofthegame by six lengths.
It’s form that suggests he’ll have no problem with the trip around Haydock, on what is essentially a similar track to that at Aintree.
What I can’t get out of my head is the quote from Joe Tizzard in Jake Price’s Horses to Follow guide and it’s for that reason that I’m backing him this Saturday.
“…around Haydock, I think he’ll be outstanding, and I just think he’s progressing all the time. Bristol De Mai’s form is a bit different, Lostintranslation has got an extra gear on what Native River or the like have got.
“I think Bristol De Mai will give him a nice tow in the Betfair Chase, and he’ll just sit in second gear behind him, very similar to the way he travelled at Aintree last season.
“I think he’ll just destroy them.”